Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
(Matthew 5:9, NKJV)
A few months back, I was on break at Chick-fil-A and having a bite to eat in the dining room, when I overheard a snippet of a conversation between two guests at the table next to me. My guess is that one of the men was a pastor, and I overheard him ask a question of the other man that made me pause and think.
The question that was asked was, “What is the difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker?”
I thought to myself, “What is the difference? A peacekeeper would keep the peace, while a peacemaker would make peace. But what’s the difference on a practical level? How does keeping peace look different from making peace?”
I waited to hear what the answer would be, but the men were conversing in tones too low for me to hear anything further. So I decided to look into the topic when I got home. In fact, I decided to look into the entire Beatitudes passage – and thus began my blog series on these verses.
I found an answer on the Web that seemed to define the difference pretty well:
The goal of the peacekeeper is to keep the conflicted parties at arms length from one another to prevent them from striking [at] each other.
The goal of the peacemaker is to bring the parties together so they can strike a deal instead of striking each other.
So peacekeeping is more reactive. It steps between two people and prevents the argument from escalating. It keeps the peace by halting the battle. But there’s no guarantee that the battle won’t simply resume once the peacekeeper is out of the picture.
On the other hand, peacemaking is more proactive. It not only steps between the opponents, but it brings them together. It acts as a mediator, guiding both sides toward making peace and ending the war. The idea is that the peace will continue even after the peacemaker is out of the picture.
I wonder what this verse would have meant to the Jews of Jesus’s time, living under the rule of the Romans as they were. Was Jesus suggesting that the Jews should not be hostile – or even neutral – in their position toward the Romans? Was He suggesting that they make peace with their conquerors and actually become welcoming toward them?
Or perhaps His words were meant to have a more spiritual connotation. Perhaps He was speaking of those who would spread His message of salvation and make peace between men and God.
Perhaps the verse involves both aspects, and more.
The word used here for “peacemaker” is used a few more places in Scripture, but is translated differently:
Rom. 12:8 – “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
Mark 9:50 – “Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”
2 Cor. 13:11 – “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
1 Thes. 5:13 – “and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”
And here are some verses that use close relations of the word:
Heb 12:11 – “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Jam. 3:17 – “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
Col. 1:20 – “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
The word itself in Greek means “pacificatory” and “peaceable.” It is not simply a state of mind, but involves action, which would explain why it has been translated as “peacemaker” in Matthew 5:9.
But look at the other ways it is used:
“Live in peace.”
“Live peaceably with all men.”
“Be at peace among yourselves.”
“Have peace with one another.”
I have heard that this Beatitude is speaking of making peace spiritually by bringing people to Christ, but as I look at these other verses where the word is used, I wonder if that is true. In each of these verses, we are encouraged to have peace with one another – loving one another, avoiding disputes and division.
O. S. Hawkins, in The Joshua Code, takes a similar stance:
Note that Christ pronounces a blessing here on the “peacemakers,” not the peace lovers. These peacemakers are the active promoters of unity among the family of God. And note that they are not made sons of God by this outward manifestation, but they are “called” sons of God. They are recognized by others as such. Show me someone who tries to sow seeds of discord, and I will show you someone who is not thirsting after the things of God. On the other hand, show me believers who are pursuing God’s heart, and I will show you people living in love and unity with those around them.”
Our God is a God of peace and love, and we are to reflect His attributes to those around us. Just as children reflect their parents, we are to be “sons of God” reflecting His character. The world will know we are Christians by our love. But if we are not showing love, if we are preventing peace, if we are sowing discord – what does that reveal to people about God?
Are we quicker to start an argument than we are to stop one?
Are we more prone to cause division than we are to promote peace?
Do we simply keep the peace, or do we make peace?
Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Cor. 13:11